Falcons head coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan spoke with the Tampa Bay media this week on a conference call and praised the Buccaneers under the leadership of Greg Schiano.
The Falcons (9-1) come to Tampa on Sunday to play against their division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-4) and the two teams are no strangers to each other.
Atlanta Falcon quarterback Matt Ryan spoke with the Tampa media about the Buccaneers and what the Bucs have been doing defensively and offensively, as well as the new additions in Tampa.
Ryan knows that this Buccaneer defense is tough and that statistics do not tell the whole story.
“Absolutely, I think their statistics are sometimes misleading,” Ryan said. “I think it is a good defense. It is a defense that plays with great effort. They got [a] very good pressure package. You have to be on top of it. I think it is a defense you have to be prepared for. You have to respect the talent that they have on that side of the ball and we will. I think we just need to be on top of our game plan and try and execute [it] as best we can.”
Even though the Buccaneers may not be playing very well in the secondary at, they has made up for it in causing turnovers and capitalizing off of those turnovers. What this defense is doing has not gone unnoticed throughout the league, and especially to division rivals such as the Falcons.
“Yes, I think so,” Ryan said. “I think it is important. You want to score points when your defense gives you an opportunity. Oddly enough that is one of the things I think the Bucs have done better than anybody this year. I think they have something like 12 touchdowns or 11 touchdowns off turnovers which is the best in the league. It is something that we try to do a good job of and certainly something that Tampa has done a great job of.”
Falcons head coach Mike Smith has also been impressed with the way this Buccaneer team has taken the ball away and scored off of turnovers.
“You got to look at it they are number one in run defense,” Smith said. “They have been very opportunistic in their turnovers. They are doing a very good job offensively not turning the ball over. When they have taken the ball away on defense, they score touchdowns. I think they have been very opportunistic when they have taken the ball away. I believe they are number one in the league in terms of scoring touchdowns off of turnovers. Right now they are No. 6 six in the league in the turnover ratio. Really when you start looking at wins and losses that turnover ratio is one of the most important. All the other things can be empty yards, [but] it is really about points and being able to possess the football.”
Smith also has been impressed with the new additions that Tampa has made under new head coach Greg Schiano. He had high praise for rookie running back Doug Martin, as well as Josh Freeman.
“They are playing very confidently,” Smith said. “It is a very well coached team in terms of what they do in all three phases. [I have] been impressed with their ability to stop the run. They are the number one team in the league in terms of run defense. That talks about a mentality and they are also running the football extremely well. I have been very impressed with the new parts that they have added in terms of the running back. Doug Martin is a 1,000 yard rusher. He is a guy that has got very good vision. [He] runs well behind his pads and you are going to have to put multiple pads on him to get him down. Vincent Jackson has been a great addition. I think Josh Freeman has returned to the form that he had two years ago when to me he was playing at a Pro Bowl level. I think he is playing at a Pro Bowl level right now. He is doing a great job in running their offense.”
With Josh Freeman and the offense playing so well the past few games Smith said the Falcons will have their hands full.
“This is a very potent offense,” Smith said. “I think you can see statistically that they are very good. They are top ten in numbers of what I call the critical factors for a football team. They are scoring at a very high rate and they are doing it both running and throwing the football. I think that’s something that will create issues and it is something that we are going to have to deal with this week. They are the number two scoring team in the NFL over the last four games. They have been playing very well the last four games and through the season they are number four. Their numbers are very impressive in terms of total yards, passing yards, [and] running yards. They are playing really good.”
When these two teams face each other on Sunday expect both teams to battle through because each knows what is at stake.
“I think it is definitely a rivalry,” Ryan said. “I think anytime you are in a division those games always carry extra weight. With Tampa like you said the games have come down to the fourth quarter seemingly every time we have played. We have come up short sometimes and we have won our fair share too. In these kinds of games you just know going into it [that] it is going to be a battle and it is going to come down to a handful of plays throughout the game that are going to determine the outcome. So you just have to be prepared for that and have your mind right and your game plan right so you can execute well.”–Mark Cook contributed to this report
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